Lakehead University-led research team receiving $1.2 million to investigate cancer prevention using traditional healing

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Lakehead University

Thunder Bay – A Lakehead University professor and her research team in partnership with traditional knowledge holders and Waasegiizhig Nanaandawe’iyewigamig Health Access Centre (WNHAC) are receiving $1.2 million in CIHR funding to explore the efficacy of using traditional healing to prevent cancer.

Dr. Lana Ray, Assistant Professor in Indigenous Learning at Lakehead and the University’s Indigenous Research Chair in Decolonial Futures, will work with WNHAC, traditional knowledge holders, and researchers from Lakehead University, Nipissing University and the University of Toronto to carry out the work over five years.

This project will implement traditional healing activities to address the impacts of colonialism in WNHAC’s service area. It will evaluate the impacts of the intervention through a pre- and post-design that will explore and measure risks and protective factors.

Using an Indigenous mixed methods research approach, this study will privilege Indigenous ways of knowing and doing and tangible outcomes for Indigenous communities through the implementation of medicine camps and traditional health practitioner visits.

Dr. Ray explained the importance of examining cancer prevention using traditional healing methods.

“We need to stop framing prevalent risk factors of cancer as such and start thinking about them as symptoms of colonialism,” Dr. Ray said.

“When we do this, we also begin to think of cancer as a symptom of colonialism, which allows for expanded approaches to primary and secondary cancer prevention.”

Colonialism is fundamentally about severing Anishinaabe peoples’ deep spiritual relationships to land. The anti-thesis to that is Anishinaabe systems of traditional healing that are grounded in a deep love and respect for the land and the knowledge that it possesses, Dr. Ray explained.

“Because of the resiliency and foresight of our ancestors, our practices and philosophies of traditional healing have not been lost. To restore mino-bimaadiziwin (the good life), we must look to those in our nations who possess this knowledge, and I am so grateful that as the principal investigator on this project, I am able to support the work of traditional knowledge holders and learn from them,” she said.

The project team includes Serena Joseph, Program Manager at WNHAC; traditional knowledge holders; Kathy Bird from Peguis First Nation; Katherine Fobister from Asubpeeschoseewagong First Nation; Roy Napish from Eagle Lake First Nation; Ken Nash from Northwest Angle 37; Jimmy Wayendowpanicken; Robert Charles Greene and Sarah Mandamin from Iskatewizaagegan No.39; and Phyllis Shaugabay from Washagamis Bay.

Researchers include Dr. Anna Koné from Lakehead’s Department of Health Sciences, Dr. Cindy Peltier from the Faculty of Arts and Science and the Faculty of Education and Professional Studies at Nipissing University, and Dr. Walter Wodchis from the Institute of Health Policy, Management and Evaluation at the University of Toronto.

“We are excited to privilege Indigenous Intelligence as an effective approach to health and well-being,” said Anita Cameron, WNHAC Executive Director. “Through the mino-bimaadiziwin research project we will more than double access to traditional healing in our catchment area.”

Dr. Andrew P. Dean commended the research team for their dedication and hard work.

“Congratulations to Dr. Ray and her project members on obtaining this research grant from CIHR and a thank you to the Agency for the funding,” said Dr. Dean, Lakehead’s Vice-President, Research and Innovation.

“Cancer treatments need to be done hand in hand with screening and also with understanding causes. This project identifies common risk factors for cancer among the Indigenous population as directly related to the impact of colonialism. Acknowledging this correlation and drawing upon traditional healing methods are the key components of this project,” he added.

The CIHR delivered this funding in partnership with the Global Alliance for Chronic Disease.

Source: Lakehead University